Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images
Without beating around the bush more than is necessary, I will just say it.
In the second installment of my “Surprise of the Week” series, the Chicago Cubs take the cake.
After a brief glimpse of the schedule, you will notice the North Siders have not played a game since August 6. Why? Well, COVID-19 slammed the St. Louis Cardinals, which in turn postponed their weekend series against the Cubs.
Even with Chicago only playing four games last week, they are still my surprise of the week. The surprise, however, does not come due to some fantastic winning streak or series sweep. Instead, it comes in a similarity on offense to another well-known Cubs team.
However, this is not just any run-of-the-mill Chicago squad, though. Instead, this is the team that broke the 108-year championship curse and won the 2016 World Series.
Yes, that team.
You are probably confused as to where the similarities come from. Linger on the confusion no more, though. Let me explain.
Let’s get the basics out of the way. The 2020 Chicago Cubs currently sit at 10-3 after their four-game series against the Kansas City Royals last week. On the offensive side of the ball, the Cubs currently possess a team On-base plus slugging (OPS) of .757, which ranks fifth in all of MLB. Chicago’s 19 home runs rank 15th, and while that seems below average, Chicago was the victim to a series postponement, which means they have played less games than the majority of teams ahead of them. Their 21 doubles rank 15th. When looking at runs (at the end of the day, that is what counts the most, right?), the team has scored 65 runs, which ranks 18th. When looking at the entire package, the Cubs have collectively slashed .238/.332/.425 through their first 13 games.
What about the numbers for the 2016 squad?
I am glad you asked.
Through the 2016 team’s first 13 games, the team was also 10-3. Their team OPS during that span was .758. Their home run total during that span was 14, whereas their doubles total during the same stretch was 22. The team collectively scored 76 runs. When their collective numbers were all rolled together, the team slashed .248/.352/.406. Just like their 2020 counterparts, all totals would be in the upper half or close to it in all of baseball up to that 13-game point.
Obviously the numbers would not have been identical to the point where the question would be whether the teams were separated at birth, but similarities are noticeable. The OPS numbers are practically spot-on (.757 in 2020 compared to .758 in 2016), while the home run and double numbers are also staggeringly close (19 home runs and 21 doubles in 2020 compared to 14 home runs and 22 doubles in 2016). The run totals, while slightly more distant (65 in 2020 compared to 76 in 2016), are not astronomically far from each other, either.
The similarities might not bear much ring-bearing fruit for the 2020 Chicago squad. Even in a shortened season, 13 games are still seen as a skirmish when compared to the overall campaign that is a baseball season. And, of course, hitting is only one aspect of the sport. You must pitch and defend, too. This is in no way predicting the Cubs to win the 2020 World Series. It is simply too early to proclaim that.
However, the swift start for the 2020 Chicago Cubs is a pleasant surprise. The surprise even has shown similarities to a team that won the Commissioner’s Trophy four years ago.
Sure, it might not mean much long-term, but whenever a team has a stretch similar to a team that won it all, I keep notice.